Confession: my son is illiterate. True, he’s only 11 months old, but his complete lack of interest in books has me worried that he will remain illiterate for some time to come.
I wish he were more like me. I’ve loved reading since my own infancy, when my mother tells me I would calmly sit on her lap, pointing at pictures, babbling at letters and mimicking the words as she read them. But whenever I give Babydude a book – and this is often – he immediately starts to eat it, more interested in mouthing the pages than the words on them.
Feel free to roll your eyes. I have a healthy, active, alert baby. He’s meeting his milestones, and more importantly, he’s a happy little dude. But while some of his baby friends will gladly sit and listen to stories, he would rather be climbing, rolling a ball, cruising the living room, or roughhousing. As long as he’s moving, he’s happy, but sit him down for anything more than a hasty meal and he’s miserable.
I know an active child is a healthy child, but I also know that kinesthetic learners – and I suspect that, like his father, he is one – don’t tend to do as well in school. How could they, when the entire system is geared towards audio-visual learners like me?
I’m sure Babydude has plenty of surprises for me, but he’s also old enough to be dispensing clues about his future self. And this revealing letter in The Guardian from an anonymous mom who catalogues and laments the early signs of her daughter’s learning difficulties, only strengthens my feeling that I’m on to something. Unlike this mom, who describes how it feels “when you realize your daughter just isn’t very clever”, I’m not worried that Babydude is slow, just that he may be more athletically than academically inclined, which means that he may not be like me at all.
There’s nothing inherently wrong with that, but it’s daunting. After all, I know how to inspire a kid like me. And I know that kids like me succeed in school without even trying, because being in school is what they love. But if Babydude continues on this path, following in Daddydude’s footsteps, then I’m going to have to go outside my comfort zone to support his interests. How can I teach him to skateboard or heli-ski when I’m all knees and elbows, and a safety fanatic to boot? (Daddydude says I’m paranoid; I prefer “care-anoid”).
But part of being a parent is accepting your child as they are, and encouraging their own interests. That’s why I’ve been scouring the used toy market for a push tricycle to give Babydude for his first birthday. If he wants to move, I’ll help him – but I’m not giving up on literacy, either. The trike I’m looking at comes with a basket on the back, and when he unwraps his new toy, he’ll find that basket filled with books.
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